Reflections on infertility: Marriage and sexual intimacy challenges
Updated: Mar 7, 2022
When I was first married, my husband and I were stressed about discerning the timing of starting our family. We never expected the real stress that would happen with our infertility journey. It took several very long years before we became pregnant with our firstborn. Our blissful newlywed life quietly morphed into an exceptionally frustrating and challenging phase of our marriage.
If you’re going through the infertility struggle: my heart breaks for you, and I want you to know that you’re not alone. According to the CDC, 18% of US women aged 44 and younger are also facing challenges with becoming pregnant. That’s nearly 1 out of every 5 women. Simply knowing this may not make things easier, so I wish to share some details of my personal challenges in hopes it’ll help you feel less alone.
In no particular order, here were the hardest parts of my infertility journey:
The day my period arrived. This moment of going to the bathroom and seeing blood on the toilet paper never got easier. It broke a part of my heart every time. I would try to distract myself on that day - keep myself and my mind as busy as possible so I didn’t have to think about it. Inevitably the frustration would bubble over, often through a moment of tears and/or yelling at my husband, who just didn’t “understand.”
The two weeks before the period. Was I pregnant? Was I not? Should I stop drinking alcohol? Does it matter? It felt like a mini-purgatory every month.
Baby talk. Baby showers, baby announcements on Instagram, people asking when I was going to have a baby (as if the thought hadn’t occurred to me!).
Unhelpful advice. (And it basically all felt unhelpful.) “Just relax!” “All in God’s timing!” “Have you tried xyz? It worked for my aunt’s neighbor’s brother.” I didn’t want to tell anyone what I was going through, because I didn’t want to deal with the advice giving. So I was left more isolated.
Trying to follow the advice anyway and feeling overwhelmed. I cut out sugar and most carbs (and got more depressed), tried to cook organ meat (it was so bad it went straight to the trash), took a bunch of hormone pills, got so much blood drawn for lab testing, and damn it, I was relaxed!!!
Wondering why God was the worst. I spent a lot of time being mad at God. And being mad at God just felt…wrong?
Sex lost all its romance. Having sex to create a baby was "supposed" to be special and beautiful. In reality, sex became terribly forced. (“It’s my ovulation window! I don’t care if you’re sick!”) There was way too much pressure to get it right. I struggled to be present with my husband as I had a million other pregnancy related thoughts like, “We need to get to a better position for impregnation – he’d better not climax yet! … just relax, just relax, just relax … God don’t make me give up on you … I can’t focus on my husband, I’m the worst…! etc etc.”
Here's some things I learned:
Trying to pretend I was fine and ignore the pain never helped. I had to start telling my husband directly, “Today I got my period and it is a really hard day for me.” He didn’t always know how to respond, but we both kind of learned together.
Having it out with God helped, too. He was able to take it, and he found ways to reach me and give me what I needed. (And I slowly remembered he wasn’t “the worst.”)
Gratitude. It can feel overly trendy to talk about expressing gratitude, but there’s probably a reason it is trendy: it can help. Gratitude helped me to better see the ways God was working in my life. (A caveat here: I also had to avoid “at least”/comparison/“should” thinking - “at least my situation isn’t as bad as so and so. I should be more grateful”. My challenges were still very real! It was still very hard!)
My marriage was more important. When I realized I was focused more on a baby than my husband, I had to pause and re-prioritize. This was so much easier said than done (and involved a lot of prayer), but it was worth it to put my marriage first.
Maybe you’re having different challenges, maybe you’re learning different lessons. Wherever you are at in your journey, my prayers are with you. Know that God is with you too - and he can take it, if you want to yell at him.